Council considers Pride Month proclamation

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
Santiam Travel Station was packed Wednesday, April 13, for the Lebanon City Council meeting.
Presentations from the city’s Planning Commission and Alyrica Networks Inc., as well as several public comments, gave the council a sense of the community’s pulse.
Several people addressed the council, requesting that Mayor Paul Aziz sign the LGBTQ Pride Month Proclamation for June.
Tami Cockeram, who had moved to the city from Portland in 2020, expressed appreciation for Lebanon’s friendly residents, trail system and roaming turkey flocks, as well as its 2040 Vision statement, which valued inclusivity and diversity. However, she said, she believed the community may not actually be embracing inclusivity of an LGBTQ population.
“The signing of the proclamation would be one step that would show that our city is working towards inclusivity because we value diversity,” she said. “Maybe more importantly is that we value the opportunity for everyone to live their best lives outwardly without judgment or persecution.”
Zayn Chapman and Mika Salcido, both 15, shared their own experiences.
“As a LGBTQ-plus community member, I have dealt with a lot of verbal and physical violence due to my sexuality or gender identity,” Chapman said. “In seventh grade I was choked with my own pride flag just for wearing it. As Lebanon being a city built on friendship and kindness, it’s something I would like to see represented more towards all minorities, including ours.”
Salcido said she sees a lot of discrimination, adding that it was hard to look into a crowd, not knowing how it would regard her.
Councilor Gamael Nassar asked them how they thought the proclamation would help. Chapman said it would help people understand that LGBTQ people are also human and deserve respect, and that the proclamation would give them a sense of protection.
Jonathan Pedersen and Brittany Nassar also approached the council to encourage the mayor to sign the proclamation. Pedersen said he’s felt cautious in the community about his sexual orientation and has felt threatened in various ways.
Brittany, who interacts with her customers at Mugs Coffee House, described “a huge amount of fear from multiple ages in this community over this topic,” which she believed stemmed from miseducation or a lack of open conversation, as well as dated values.
“By opening those conversations, we can have a much more open community that has less fear and feels a little bit less open to the opportunity of hurting others, including young people,” she said. “But it’s your guys’ power within this proclamation to start opening up that conversation.”
The City of Lebanon has never proclaimed LGBTQ Pride Month, as the Strawberry Festival has always been its focus for June, Aziz said in a side interview, adding that he is considering the comments and request.
Lebanon Downtown Association Manager Cassie Cruze reported an update on its activities, sharing that 712 people came downtown in the past three months for First Friday events, spending an average of $20 apiece. About 30 percent of those visitors came from out of town.
“We’re seeing a significant deal more foot traffic downtown,” she said.
Live Longer Lebanon’s Wyatt King and Lebanon Amateur Radio Emergency Services’ Merlin Egan asked for the city’s support for ARES, which can provide communication during emergencies when other services fail.
When an earthquake or other disaster takes out local power and/or Internet service, people need a reliable way to communicate, King said. Lebanon ARES wants to reinforce the city’s telecommunications for such service using an already established system.
According to Egan, there are more than 200 ham-radio operators in the 97355 zip code, and his communication system uses Willamette Valley Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network (AREDN) to work just like the Internet. Egan wants to expand the relatively new AREDN with antennas in high locations.
“We can work with you to devise a plan to make sure that connectivity is there,” he said.
Planning Commissioners Jeremy Savage and Don Robertson informed the council of the commission’s activity over the past 1.5 years, such as approving several commercial constructions, 392 apartment units and 128 new parcels of single and multi-family homes.
“We’ve seen a significant amount more apartments going in Lebanon in the last five years than we have single family houses,” Savage said. “It’s really market-driven. We’d all like to see big new subdivisions come in with single-family homes, but it’s the market that drives developers to put in what they think is going to be the most bang for the buck.”
The commission also analyzed Lebanon’s status as a severe rent-burdened community, based on a 2018 state law requiring cities with populations greater than 10,000 to report on housing production. A community is considered severe-rent-burdened if at least 25% of the population is paying 50% or more of their gross income on housing.
Savage reported that in 2019, 35.8 percent of renters were considered rent-burdened. That number has fallen subsequently, to 32.9 percent in 2020, 29.2 percent in 2021 and 26.1 percent this year. Much of the drop, he said, can be credited to the number of new apartments.
He reported that the city is also fighting wetlands, which makes it “significantly more” expensive to build on. Much of the industrial land on the city’s north and west sides are designated wetland, putting it at a disadvantage for business growth.
Robertson said the commission and council used to hold joint meetings in the past, and recommended that the city consider holding them from time to time to discuss important issues. He also suggested the production of a video to educate the public on how city government functions after learning that some people believe the commission makes decisions based on personal judgment.
Councilor Jason Bolen thanked the commission for the work it performs, calling them “behind-the-curtain all-stars.”
Also present at the meeting were councilors Wayne Dykstra, Wayne Rieskamp, Michelle Steinhebel, Kim Ullfers, and City Manager Nancy Brewer.

In other business, the council:
♦ Heard a presentation from Alyrica Networks, Inc., which provides Internet service in the Willamette Valley. According to Director of Growth Josh Kvidt, only one Internet provider provides consistent service throughout Lebanon despite the “generic” reporting by the Federal Communications Commission that indicates as many as three to six.
The data was important, he said, because the federal government invests in community broadband based on FCC reports. As such, the state of Oregon is working on a more accurate mapping so cities such as Lebanon have a better chance to receive some of that funding;
♦ Approved a resolution following a public hearing to amend fees and charges for administration and enforcement of the building code program;
♦ Adopted a bill following a public hearing to amend the Lebanon Development Code regarding freestanding signage. The City was approached with a request to consider allowing multiple monument/pole signs when the property has multiple street frontages.
Currently, the sign code permits one monument sign per property for commercial, mixed, industrial and public uses. The new ordinance allows properties to have one monument/pole per street frontage;
♦ Formally accepted the City of Lebanon and Lebanon Urban Renewal Agency financial audits. “The best opinion that was possible was received,” Finance Director Matt Apken said of both;
♦ Repealed Resolution 2020-06 declaring a COVID-19 state of emergency, which had remained in effect since March 16, 2020. Following the state’s April 1 action to end its state of emergency, the city is following suit;
♦ Heard a presentation from Brewer regarding the redistricting of wards based on the federal 2020 census showing a city population of 21,200. As such, each ward would need 7,067 people to be equally represented. Currently, Ward 1 has 7,090, Ward 2 has 6,853 and Ward 3 has 7,258.
Brewer recommended that the council leave the boundaries as-is because the differences are relatively small, and to re-analyze the boundaries in 2031;
♦ Recognized Bolen for his 10 years of council service and declared his Ward 3 seat vacant. Bolen announced his resignation from the council, effective April 14, in order to accept a job in Bend. See our story here. Anyone interested in the position may pick up an application at City Hall;
♦ Selected Michelle Steinhebel as council president;
♦ Approved a Full On-Premises Commercial Additional Privilege Liquor License recommendation to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for Conversation Brewing;
♦ Discussed crosswalk laws and the possibility of putting up a sign at the north entrance of downtown Lebanon to remind pedestrians to be cautious when crossing;
♦ Discussed sewer problems. Ullfers said he watched city workers spend three full days (24 hours total) clean a clogged sewer line between Ash and Sherman streets. The line was filled with “supposed flushable” wipes, and had multiple leaks. Ullfers asked if the city could send reminders to residents that wipes are not flushable, despite being called so, to avoid these costly repairs.